• France's news in English

Summer camp's 'polluted water' leaves boy dead

Joshua Melvin · 11 Jul 2014, 11:42

Published: 11 Jul 2014 11:42 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France's first big weekend marking the start of the summer-holiday season was marred when an 8-year-old boy died after a short stay at a summer camp in southwestern France, where the tap water was known to be contaminated.

On Thursday night, seven other children who had been staying at the same St. Bernard Chalet at the camp in the Ariège area, were also struck down by a similar intestinal sickness. 

As prosecutors launch an investigation after the boy's death on Wednesday night, the local prefect, Nathalie Marthien, has declined to confirm the water at a summer camp in the tiny community of Ascou was responsible for the outbreak of sickness.

However, an autopsy has revealed the boy, from the Parisian suburb of Villeneuve-le-Roi, died from an acute intestinal infection.

He fell ill just days after arriving at the camp, which had been under orders to serve only bottled water since July 4th, after tests had revealed the presence of coliform bacteria in its water source.

Coliform bacteria is found naturally in animals, including humans, and is not harmful, but it's an indicator of the presence of dangerous pathogens that come from faeces, such as the potentially deadly E. Coli strain.

In the opinion of one father whose two daughters were among the sick children admitted to hospital, the local officials are to blame for the episode. 

“They knew the village’s water was contaminated, but nobody told us anything. OK, they gave them bottled water, but how can you ensure that a child is not going to drink from the tap? Were they taking bottled water showers as well?” the angry father, who gave his name only as Vincent, told French daily Le Parisien. His two daughters have since been released from hospital.

25 hospitalised in Brittany

The other seven children fell sick on Thursday evening as they were returning home from the camp in Ascou aboard a train, which was forced to make an emergency stop so the youngsters could be examined by paramedics. In the end their sickness was not deemed life-threatening and they completed the trip to Paris, RTL radio reported.

The sickness outbreak began on Tuesday, two days after roughly 40 children from suburban Paris arrived at the camp where they were to stay for two weeks for sport and outdoor activities. Because of the tragedy the local prefect has shut down the camp .

It was only because of a routine test that the bacteria in the camp's water supply was found to be contaminated. For the moment authorities have not specified a source of the contamination. Samples of the water and food served at the camp have been sent to a lab in Lyon and results are expect in the coming days.

On Friday there was a similar scare at another holiday camp in France where numerous children and adults had to be admitted to hospital after falling ill at a camp in Brittany, north western France, local newspaper Ouest-France reported.

For the moment, authorities have not stated the cause of the outbreak, that has left victims vomitting and nauseous. 

1.5 million French 'drinking polluted tap water'

The quality of France's drinking water has been subject to scrutiny in recent months, after a survey in February this year, revealed tap water was polluted for 1.5 million residents in the country.

According to the study most substandard water in France is loaded with pesticides and nitrates from fertilizer and livestock manure. That is the case in 63 percent of instances where homes receive polluted water - which represents around 900,000 people. 

However, pesticides and nitrates are not the only substances polluting French water.

The study also pointed to the presence of selenium, a natural, but toxic, substance that appears when groundwater supplies are over used.

CLICK here to see if you are drinking polluted tap water in your area.






Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available